Om Shadi is a Palestinian mother from Ein el Helweh refugee camp in south Lebanon. Om Shadi has been volunteering in the MAP-supported reproductive health programme run by our partner, Naba’a – Developmental Action Without Borders. She is one of a team of ‘community mothers’ who run regular education sessions to help raise awareness of health challenges and encourage healthy practices and behaviours among women in the community.
Om Shadi spoke to Wafa Dakwar, MAP’s Senior Programme Officer in Lebanon, about her experiences volunteering as a community mother:
I have four children who are all grown up now. I lived abroad for a long time, and when I returned to the camp, I did not know many people there. Three years ago, a friend who used to work at Naba’a told me about the awareness-raising sessions they run and invited me along. The first session I attended was about sexual harassment, and it included a group activity where I was nominated to present the results of the group work. When I did the presentation, everyone in the session clapped and I received positive comments.
I liked the sessions and I attended ones on many topics. One day, the project nurse asked me if I would like to volunteer as a community mother. I immediately accepted, and I felt honoured and happy that the team saw that I have the skills to take this on.
The team worked hard to train me. They gave me the knowledge and skills needed for facilitating the awareness-raising sessions. For example, they taught me what should I do if I was asked a question that I don’t know the answer to, and how to moderate a discussion.
The first session I facilitated was on breast cancer. The project’s doctor was attending the session. I remember I was very nervous and the night before I couldn’t sleep and kept reviewing the notes and materials that the team gave me. The session was very good � the participants were really interactive and interested to know about the topic. Breast cancer is a disease that women in our community don’t know much about. Our information is largely based on what our mothers and grandmothers have told us. We are often even scared to say the word ‘cancer’, so I think it is very important to provide accurate information about this disease and encourage women my age to regularly attend screening.
Cancer rates in Lebanon are high, and breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among women. Five women in my neighbourhood have had breast cancer and one of them passed away after discovering it at an advanced stage. I strongly believe that we should keep on raising awareness about it and continue to facilitate opportunities for testing and early detection.
This project has played an important role in my life. It re-introduced me to the camp’s community that I love. People in the camp are very nice and they care about one another. It means a lot to me that I am able to help, even if only to a limited extent, through my role as a community mother. I would like to thank Naba’a and MAP for giving me this opportunity and for supporting this project that is helping women in my community.
Source: Medical Aid for Palestinians